Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More on Reading the Oxford English Dictionary

It’s a week of follow-up…here’s more about Ammon Shea, the guy I mentioned yesterday who read the entire Oxford English Dictionary. (Not sure why I’ve become so interested in this…I’ve never even imagined for a minute reading a whole dictionary, let alone the granddaddy of them all.)

Here’s a piece from Paper Cuts, the blog of the New York Times. And here’s a piece on Galleycat. An excerpt (from Galleycat):

"I don't particularly enjoy writers who use big words for their own sake," Shea said. "In fact, I find them boring." For the most part, he says, there are two simple guidelines for using a word: Would readers understand what it means? And what does to the text's atmosphere? There are cases when the second question can trump the first; Shea cited a passage in Nabakov where the author recalls the "long-drawn Westinghousian sigh" of a train coming to a stop—readers can grasp the long-drawn sigh readily enough, but a special few will recognize that locomotive air brakes were manufactured by Westinghouse. Knowing that a word exists for some objects or phenomena, Shea added, has inspired him to pay more attention to such things, like psithurism, "the whispering of leaves moved by the wind."

I will have to remember to drop psithurism into a few conversations.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.